Expert Commentary by Trey Hill

The following post was featured as part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its fifth Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, DC. Click here to read the post on The Chicago Council's site.

By Trey Hill, Harborview Farms

As a large grain producer, living in the mid Atlantic, I am able to see agriculture and food production from a unique perspective. There are three primary stakeholders that all hold very different views on the present and future of agriculture, and on a broader scale, global food production. One of the biggest issues facing the future is the lack of communication and openness to the perspectives of the others.  In order to feed the world a healthy diet, sustainably, I think that these groups will have to work together.

Grain producers around the world are the biggest producers of calories for our global population, yet are rarely heard from in many of the discussions that are held outside of the agricultural industry. That’s why I was pleased to participate in The Chicago Council’s Symposium yesterday in Washington, DC.  

The environmental community now has an increasingly larger impact on agriculture than ever before. There is a huge opportunity for collaboration, but also for contention if misguided.  In the process of growing food, there will always be some nutrient loading of the waterways. As more extreme weather occurs, this problem will be magnified. Today we have an opportunity to bring together influential groups from the environmental and farming communities to tackle these challenges together. The fact is, we share many of the concerns about food security and environmental stewardship.

The third stakeholder often refers to themselves as “foodies.” I share their commitment to ensuring nutritious, local diets for the growing population. This group is diverse and growing, and wants to see a lot of changes in the where, when, and how our food is grown.

“Big agriculture” and foodies must learn to coexist. While some may only see obstacles, I have demonstrated it by having a community supported agriculture operating on one of my farms. I think this union will facilitate not only a greater opportunity for a better diet, but foster a young progressive agricultural community who are needed more than ever before. Collaboration among all groups is possible, I currently serve on the board of a local riverkeeper organization, the Sassafras riverkeepers,  and am a member of several other environmental groups. Farmers in my area work hand in hand with  environmental groups on projects on their farms to improve sustainability.

While there are many stakeholders holding very different views today, I think we really have the similar vision for the future. A vision of a healthier, cleaner world, in which there are enough healthy calories to feed a growing population.